Wednesday, September 16, 2009

`Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s'--Review of Stefan Bradley's new book

Black Student Power in the Late 1960s

By Stefan M. Bradley
Urbana and Chicago : University of Illinois Press (2009)

In the epilogue of his great new book on the historic 1968 student revolt at Columbia University , Harlem vs. Columbia University,

which “attempts to draw out some of the important factors that contributed to the 1968-69 uprisings,” St. Louis University Professor of History and African American Studies Stefan Bradley notes that “although many of the participants have since passed on, the issues at Columbia seem to linger.” This was borne out at a 2008 commemoration event held on Columbia’s campus to mark the 40th anniversary of the student revolt. A Harlem Tenants Council activist denounced the Columbia Administration's current 17-acre campus expansion project in the neighborhood north of West 125th St. and passed out a flyer in which the Coalition to Preserve Community group of community residents vowed to stand against Columbia ’s “ West Harlem eviction plan.”

Professor Bradley also observes that over 40 years after the student revolt, some of the black students who participated in the non-violent student occupation of Hamilton Hall in April 1968, “bristle at the image of the Columbia demonstration that media sources often invoke” and “are dismayed at the representation of the rebellion as one where raucous white youth defied their parents and authority by taking over buildings…”

A key reason why the white students at Columbia and Barnard who were active in its Students for a Democratic Society [SDS) chapter were able to mobilize large numbers of white students to help shut down Columbia a few weeks after Martin Luther King’s assassination was because a political alliance developed between Columbia SDS and the black students who were most active in the Student Afro-American Society [SAS] campus group. So a book like Professor Bradley’s book, which focuses more on the role that the black students who occupied Hamilton Hall played in the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt than on the role of Mark Rudd and the white student demonstrators, is long overdue.

By examining the 1968 confrontation between the Harlem community (and its student supporters at Columbia) and Columbia’s board of trustees, Bradley attempts to: (1) explain how it was possible for Columbia to take land and power from black people before 1968; (2) determine the effects of the confrontation method that the 1968-69 student protesters used; (3) explain why the black and white student protesters separated after Columbia’s Hamilton Hall was jointly seized by them; and (4) explain why Columbia eventually capitulated to some of the demands of the student demonstrators. The first part of Harlem vs. Columbia University explores Columbia’s historic relationship to Harlem’s people and land, while the second part of the book examines the historic role students played in attempting to change Columbia’s institutional policies.

The first part of Harlem vs. Columbia University includes an interesting history of the Harlem and Morningside Heights neighborhoods surrounding Columbia’s campus and explains why community resident opposition to Columbia developed. Bradley recalls that “there was only one full-time black faculty member at Columbia by the mid-1960s;” and, during the 1960s, 9,600 tenants, “approximately 85 percent of whom were black or Puerto Rican,” were pushed out of the Morningside Heights and West Harlem apartment buildings or Single-Room Occupancy [SRO] residential hotels which Columbia University purchased and demolished or converted for its own institutional use.

Bradley next focuses more specifically on Columbia’s plan to construct a gymnasium for its students in Harlem’s Morningside Park and the history of community protests against this project. We learn, for example, that in a January 29, 1966 editorial, Harlem’s African-American newspaper, the Amsterdam News warned:

If Mayor Lindsay permits Columbia University to grab two acres of land out of Morningside Park for a gymnasium it will be a slap in the face to every black man, woman and child in Harlem…Columbia University, one of the richest institutions in the nation, only admits a handful of Negro scholars each year and its policies in dealing with Negroes in Harlem have been described as downright bigoted…Why then should the parents of Harlem give up their parkland to Columbia? What has Columbia done to merit such favoritism?”

Thirty-one years before, W.E.B. DuBois had also written in his classic 1935 book Black Reconstruction In America that “the Columbia school of historians and social investigators have issued between 1895 and the present time sixteen studies of Reconstruction in the Southern States, all based on the same thesis and all done according to the same method: first, endless sympathy with the white South; second, ridicule, contempt or silence for the Negro…”

By digging up flyers of various 1960s community groups and articles that appeared in various neighborhood newspapers and the local African-American press, Bradley indicates that between April 1966 and March 1968 there were at least four community rallies against Columbia’s gym construction project and at least 25 arrests of anti-gym protesters before April 1968. As Bradley observes:

“After realizing that they would receive access to only 15 percent of the proposed structure that Columbia University would control, and be forced to use a different entrance, many black residents in the community saw that things were once more separate, but hardly equal…Instead of fighting against Jim Crow, the community now fought against Gym Crow…”

In the second part of his book, Bradley relates the growth of the New Left and Black Power movements on U.S. university campuses during the 1960s and describes the initially integrated protest effort of the black and white student demonstrators at Columbia on April 23, 1968, on campus and at the Morningside Park gym construction site as well as inside Hamilton Hall during the first few hours. He goes on to show how the black student protesters in Hamilton Hall won some concessions from the Columbia Administration by aligning themselves with off-campus Black Liberation Movement groups and the Harlem community. Bradley also provides a good description of what happened inside Hamilton Hall, after the white student demonstrators were told to leave Hamilton Hall and explains the political and strategic rationale of SAS leaders for their decision to separate themselves from their white student allies.

Bradley goes on to indicate the supportive role of SDS and its objective of increasing white student support for the Black Liberation Movement at Columbia and includes a description of what happened when a thousand New York City police were called in by the Columbia Administration on April 30, 1968, to arrest student protesters.

Bradley breaks some new ground in late 1960s Columbia historiography by showing how, “at Columbia, the strategies and goals of Black Student Power continued into the spring of 1969 as the black student group, with the support of SDS, called for changes in admission policies” and observes that in the 1960s Columbia’s black students “were regularly stopped by the security guards…to have their identifications checked while most white students were not stopped.” Bradley is among the first historians to write a detailed historical summary about black student activism on Columbia’s campus during the 1968-69 academic year. He also provides a concise summary of black student protests at Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell (that received less mass media publicity than did the 1968 Columbia student protests) which reveals to readers that Columbia University was “not the only Ivy League university to be impacted by Black Power” in the late 1960s. Yet as late as 1984 there were still only three tenured black professors at Columbia and the university did not recognize a black studies program until 1987.

One very useful feature of the book is a collection of rare photographs of some of the black participants in the 1968 Columbia uprising and the excavated gymnasium construction site in Morningside Park that weren’t included in most previously-published books about the student revolt. But there are also a few omissions or inaccuracies in the book. For example, it inaccurately states that Mark Rudd “decided not to return to school” in the Fall of 1968, when--as Rudd notes in his recent autobiography, Underground-- he was actually expelled from Columbia. In addition, although Bradley notes that “SAS and SDS participated in student-supported on-campus demonstrations throughout the month of May”, readers of the book would not learn that on May 21, 1968, the Columbia Administration called police onto its campus a second time, the police rioted again and, a leader of SAS, Ray Brown, was clubbed to the ground and then kicked systematically by a crowd of cops.

Despite these few omissions or inaccuracies, Harlem vs. Columbia University does a much better job than previously published books about the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt of-- from a deeper anti-racist perspective-- highlighting the relationship of the late 1960s Black Power Movement, the history of the Harlem community, the Black radical left and left nationalist intelligentsia and the role of Black students and Harlem community activists to what happened at Columbia in 1968 and 1969 and the current position of African-Americans in the Ivy League academic world. So if you’re interested in the history of 1960s movements, Harlem and Columbia University or if you’re a 21st-century opponent of institutional racism at Columbia University and at other Ivy League universities, Harlem vs. Columbia University should be considered required reading.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 12

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its recent bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest has been owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 11 of article).

About 53 percent of the non-voting stock of the profit-making Reader’s Digest Association was owned by “non-profit” institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center and the New York Zoological Society in the early 1990s. But the DeWitt Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund which Mr. & Mrs. Wallace established before their deaths in the 1980s still owned over 50 percent of the voting stock of the Reader’s Digest Association, as well as about 30 percent of its non-voting stock, in the early 1990s.

The “non-profit” DeWitt Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund owned $1.1 billion in assets and was the 15th-largest U.S. foundation in terms of assets in the early 1990s. The “non-profit” Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund owned $802 million in assets and was the 20th-largest U.S. foundation in terms of assets in the early 1990s. And the same U.S. Establishment figures who directed both the “non-profit” DeWitt Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and the “non-profit” Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund also directed the then-profit-making Reader’s Digest Association Incorporated in the early 1990s. (end of part 12)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

Monday, September 14, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 11

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its recent bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest has been owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 10 of article).

As a result of their 100 percent ownership of the Reader’s Digest Association’s voting stock, both DeWitt “Wally” Wallace and Lila Acheson Wallace became quite wealthy during their lives [before both dying in the early 1980s]. Fortune magazine estimated DeWitt Wallace’s worth at nearly $300 million [in 1960s money] in 1968 and this made the Reader’s Digest co-founder among the 31 wealthiest men in the United States at that time, according to Theirs Was The Kingdom by John Heidenry. The same book also noted that, at the time of her death in 1984 at the age of 95, Reader’s Digest co-founder Lila Acheson Wallace “was the richest woman in the United States,” with a net worth of at least $250 million [in 1980s money] that was “two and a half times the size of the estate left by Henry Luce” of the Time-Life magazines media conglomerate.

As early as 1935, Mr. & Mrs. Wallace had pocketed a huge fortune from their Reader’s Digest publishing hustle and they used part of this fortune to buy 105 acres of land in Mount Kisco, New York, upon which the childless couple built a 22-room castle called “High Winds”—during the height of the Great Depression. Although Mr. & Mrs. Wallace were quite eager to spend $277,336 [of 1930s money] in the 1930s to build their “Reader’s Digest Castle,” in 1936 their Reader’s Digest Association only donated $4,418 to 13 organizations, including “a check for a mere $10” to the American National Red Cross, according to Theirs Was The Kingdom. The same book noted, however, that “As the Digest’s fortune grew, Wally and Lila…established trust funds for numerous members of the Wallace and Acheson families.” But over $500,000 [in 1930s money] per year from their Reader’s Digest Association’s gross income was personally taken home by Mr. & Mrs. Wallace in the form of salaries during the late 1930s.

To reduce their federal income tax bills, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace apparently utilized the “non-profit” philanthropic foundations which they established. As Theirs Was The Kingdom revealed in the early 1990s:

“Wally’s greatest vulnerability lay with his philanthropies, which he often used as a cover to pad the retirement or compensation packages of favored employees…He arranged for Digesters to serve on the boards of organizations to which he gave money. But honorariums, free travel, and other perquisites—many of them nontaxable—were often involved. Another of Wally’s tax-evading ploys was to arrange for the children of privileged Digesters to travel abroad courtesy of the Reader’s Digest Association’s Foreign Study League…”

(end of part 11)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Firefighter Appeals For New 9/11/01 Investigation

On the Fire Fighters For 9-11 Truth blog

, a retired firefighter named Anton Vodvarka recently made the following appeal for a new investigation of what actually happened on 9/11/01 in Downtown Manhatan:

An Appeal to Firefighters, Present and Past

Fellow Firefighters, A great tragedy befell our community on September 11, 2001, an unprecedented 343 deaths in the line of duty. As horrible as that toll is, if there were a rational explanation for it, we could accept it and mourn. We all understood the risk we accepted when we took the oath of office, that chance might cut short our lives when we placed ourselves in harm’s way in the public’s service. This is what we are paid for and it is our honor. However, in short, the official explanation of the events of that day are not only insufficient, they are fantastic and cannot bear rational examination. We are asked to believe that on that day three structural steel buildings, which have never before in history collapsed because of fire, fell neatly into their basements at the speed of gravity, their concrete reduced to dust. We are asked to believe that jet fuel (kerosene) can melt steel. We are asked to believe that the most sophisticated air defense system in the world, that responded to sixty-eight emergencies in the year prior to 9-11 in less than twenty minutes allowed aircraft to wander about for up to an hour and a half. We are asked to believe that the steel and titanium components of an aircraft that supposedly hit the Pentagon “evaporated”. There is much, much more if anyone cares to look into it. Trade Tower #7 by itself is the “smoking gun”. Not hit by an aircraft, with only a few relatively small fires, it came down in a classic crimp and implosion, going straight into its basement, something only very precise demolition can accomplish, which takes days if not weeks to prepare. The 9-11 Commission actually stated the they DIDN’T KNOW WHY IT COLLAPSED AND LEFT IT AT THAT. Brothers, I know that the implications of the above are hard, almost unthinkable, but the official explanation is utter nonsense, and three hundred and forty three murdered brothers are crying out for justice. Demand a genuine investigation into the events of September 11!

-Anton Vodvarka, Lt. FDNY (ret)

Lt. Vodvarka served on FDNY Ladder Co 26, Rescue Co. 3, Rescue Co. 1, Engine Co. 92, Ladder 82 and Ladder 101. He was awarded the Merit Class 1 award, the Prentice Medal

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 10

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest  was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 9 of article).

In 1950, the Reader’s Digest Association established its lucrative Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Club which condenses a number of novels and/or nonfiction books into one volume and distributes these volumes around the globe to its members. The Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Club quickly became the largest book club in the world, with over 2.5 million members by 1955.

In 1955, after its newsstand sales began to drop when many of its readers began buying TV sets, Reader’s Digest then began to sell ad space for the first time in its U.S. edition to make up for its lost revenues. Reader’s Digest has also sold ad space to U.S. corporations like Eastman Kodak, Gillette, international Harvest, Exxon, Mobil, U.S. Steel, Texaco and Lockheed in its international edition. By 1980, a full page ad in the U.S. edition of Reader’s Digest cost $65,000 (in 1980s money) per issue.

Although $1.6 million worth of Reader’s Digest equipment at its Havana, Cuba plant—that had been used to produce its Spanish-language edition for Latin America—was confiscated in June 1960, following the Cuban Revolution, the Reader’s Digest Association continued to prosper during the Vietnam War Era of the 1960s and early 1970s. A division to sell vinyl record albums around the globe, which had been set up in 1959, had also proven to be quite profitable.

By 1980, the Reader’s Digest Association was a billion dollar/year business that employed 10,000 people around the globe and earned $100 million (in 1980s money) per year in profits. But in 1981, Reader’s Digest co-founder DeWitt Wallace died at the age of 91 and, in 1984, Reader’s Digest co-founder Lila Acheson Wallace died at the age of 95. (end of part 10)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 9

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 8 of article).

According to the book Little Wonder by John Bainbridge, the “transformation of the Reader’s Digest into something other than a digest began in the early 1930s.” The magazine began to hire writers directly to produce articles for Reader’s Digest to reprint—after Reader’s Digest first “planted” these same articles in other magazines. Theirs Was The Kingdom by John Heidenry recalled: “The Digest…subsidized original articles in its client magazines” like Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly, but “nowhere in those magazines, were readers given notice that articles purporting to be original with the respective editor of each publication were, in fact, either original with the Digest or paid for with Digest money.” According to Little Wonder:

“In the five years from 1939 through 1943, the Digest planted articles in more than 60 publications…Of 47 articles reprinted from Harper’s, eight were Digest plants; of 39 furnished by the Atlantic Monthly, eight were plants;…of eight taken from The Nation, five were plants; of 26 credited to the New Republic, eight were plants and 13 others were on the Digest’s presses before the New Republic appeared on the stands with them…The Digest gave Commonwealth credit for nine reprinted articles; all were plants…”

By 1962, according to Theirs Was The Kingdom, “articles planted in other magazines for reprinting later in the Digest now constituted 70 percent of every issue in the U.S. edition.” Its policy of subsidizing and planting articles in other magazines before re-printing them in Reader’s Digest “gave the Digest power to propagandize its right-wing political views across a broad spectrum of the periodical press,” according to a reference book titled The Magazine In America. (end of part 9)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

Friday, September 4, 2009

African-American Male Worker Jobless Rate Under Obama Regime: 17 Percent

The official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for African-American male workers over 20 years-of-age under the Democratic Obama Regime jumped from 15.8 to 17 percent between July and August 2009; while the rate for African-American female workers over 20 years-of-age increased from 11.7 to 11.9 percent in August 2009, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all African-American workers (which also takes into account the 34.7 percent jobless rate for African-American youth between 16 and 19 years of age) increased from 14.5 to 15.1 percent between July and August 2009.

Between July and August 2009, the official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Hispanic or Latino male workers over 20 years of age increased from 11.2 to 12.3 percent. For all Hispanic or Latino workers over 16 years of age (which takes into account the 34 percent “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino youth), the official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate increased to 13 percent in August 2009.

For white male workers in the United States over 16 years of age, the official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate increased from 10.5 to 10.9 percent between July and August 2009, while the rate for white female workers over 16 years of age increased from 8.1 to 8.2 percent.

The “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Asian-American workers did decrease from 8.3 to 7.5 percent in August 2009. But the official “seasonally adjusted” national jobless rate for all U.S. workers increased from 9.4 to 9.7 percent between July and August 2009.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September 4, 2009 press release:

“In August, the number of unemployed persons increased by 466,000 to 14.9 million, and the unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage points to 9.7 percent…

“In August, the number of persons working part time for economic reasons was little changed at 9.1 million. These individuals indicated that they were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job…

“About 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in August…

"These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey...

“Among the marginally attached, the number of discouraged workers in August (758,000) has nearly doubled over the past 12 months. (The data are not seasonally adjusted). Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them….

“Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 216,000 in August….

“In August, construction employment declined by 65,000...

“In August, manufacturing employment continued to trend downward, with a decline of 63,000…Motor vehicles and parts lost 15,000 jobs in August…

“Financial activities shed 28,000 jobs in August, with declines spread throughout the industry…

“Wholesale trade employment fell by 17,000 in August. Employment in information continued to trend down over the month…

“The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from -443,000 to -463,000, and the change for July was revised from -247,000 to -276,000…”

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 8

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 7 of article).

After Reader's Digest Founder DeWitt "Wally" Wallace started selling Reader’s Digest on U.S. newsstands in 1929, some of the editors and publishers who had been letting him reprint their magazine articles in condensed forms for free finally realized how profitable the Digest had become by that time. Some now began to view Reader’s Digest as a competing product on the newsstand. So to induce them to keep allowing Reader’s Digest to reprint articles from their magazines and to insure that imitators would not have access to a similar source of articles, Wallace signed exclusive reprint agreements with 35 other U.S. magazines in 1929, in which he agreed to now pay these magazines quite generously.

By 1934, 1.5 million copies of Reader’s Digest were being circulated in the U.S., including over 500,000 copies that were sold on U.S. newsstands. The magazine’s then-net profit exceeded $400,000 during the height of the Great Depression and by 1938 Reader’s Digest’s circulation had jumped to three million—the largest of any U.S. magazine at that time. By 1942, its U.S. circulation was five million. And by 1946, the U.S. circulation of Reader’s Digest was 9 million.

After 1939, the Reader’s Digest Association began publishing the international editions of its magazines in nine foreign languages, as well as in English, which the CIA apparently utilized as propaganda outlets following World War II. By 1947, the combined circulation of Reader’s Digest’s international editions exceeded 4.6 million. The nine foreign languages utilized were Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Arabic, Norwegian, Danish, Japanese, French and German. (end of part 8)

(Downtown 10/27/93)